Peruvians call them Tamalitos Verdes. We call them heaven. The success of this delicious recipe depends on the quality of ingredients and the attention to detail. Get the best products and reap the benefits. There’s a bit of work involved in preparing Tamales, so give yourself plenty of time. Although tamales look deceptively simple, you need to add some patience to the ingredients.
The freshest of ingredients and the best dried husks you can find will be the difference between an ordinary dish and a superb Peruvian staple. This recipe does not include any filling and is suitable for vegetarians. We wanted to keep things simple but of course, you can add your own fillings once you’ve mastered the art of tamal making. Chicken is the most traditional and probably the best option.
The coriander and culantro (like cilantro) herbs really add a dimension that will have you asking for more. The husks of corn and spinach are what give the dish a distinctive green colour. Verde is the Spanish word for green.
Coriander and culantro add a delicious but delicate flavor to this traditional dish made from cornhusks and corn, served with a delicious lime and onion salsa criolla (creole sauce) of the quintessentially Peruvian lime juice and peppers.
For the tamales:
- 20 corn husks dried
- 1 kg corn shelled
- ½ cup onion
- 1 cup coriander
- 1 cup culantro leaves
- 1 cup spinach leaves Optional
- 2 yellow pepper
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Salt to taste
- 6 dried corn leaves
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 liters On water
For the creole sauce (salsa criolla):
- 3 tablespoons vinegar
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 6 tablespoons oil
- 1 small purple onion
- 4 coriander leaves
- 2 red sweet peppers
- 5 yellow peppers
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Gather ingredients for the recipe
- The first step of this recipe is to prepare the dried corn leaves, which are available in many supermarkets. If you can't find them, check with your local grocer or farmer's market. The night before preparing the recipe, wash the corn leaves well under running water, separate them if they are still attached by the stem, and let them soak in water overnight in a covered plastic container. Dry leaves tend to be difficult to handle and can break.
- With the soft corn leaves, proceed to prepare the vegetables for the dough. Peel the onion, wash the peppers and with a sharp knife remove the seeds and veins, peel the garlic and crush it with a mortar. Wash the coriander and the culantro very well. Cut all the vegetables into large, rustic pieces, it is not necessary to cut finely because they will be ground later.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, place the butter and when it has melted, add the vegetables and sauté. Start with garlic and onion, when the onion is transparent, add the peppers until all are lightly cooked and give off a fragrant smell. Remove from heat and reserve.
- Place the corn kernels on a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under water. Remove any impurity they may have, particularly corn whiskers.
- Place the corn kernels, the fried vegetables and the green leaves (coriander, culantro, and spinach) in a food processor, and process until you get a completely homogeneous dough. This step can be done with a mill or with a kitchen assistant, do not use the blender because it requires incorporating water.
- Take the dough to a mixing bowl and knead a few minutes until the dough takes off from the edges of the bowl, sprinkle salt on the dough to your liking, this dough should be soft and moldable, similar to the texture of peanut butter.
- Fill a large pot with half water, at the bottom of the pot, place 3 corn husks and a tablespoon of salt. Take the pot to the kitchen, over medium-high heat covered while setting the tamales. The idea is that this water is boiling in spurts for when you have the tamales ready, you should never place the tamales to cook if the water is not boiling because they tend to fill with water inside them completely ruining them.
- On a flat surface, put two overlapping corn leaves. Place half a cup of dough approximately in the center of the leaves. Fold the sides of the leaves, covering the entire dough and forming a kind of roll. Right where the dough ends, tie the ends firmly with cotton wick.
- Additionally, in the center of each tamale, tie with a piece of twine and squeeze gently. Repeat this procedure until the dough is finished.
- Uncover the pot and verify that the water is boiling, add the tamales and cover them with the remaining corn husks. Cook over high heat for about 25 to 30 minutes. It is important to control the cooking time because there is no way to verify the cooking of the tamales without opening them, which would also ruin them, so I recommend placing an exact 25-minute alarm to ensure perfect cooking.
- With a slotted spoon or a kitchen spatula, removes the tamales from the pot. If you squeeze or open them at this time they will break because they are very soft. Place all tamales to drain on a strainer, side by side in an upright position. You must let them stand for at least 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the salsa criolla. In the bowl where you will serve the Creole sauce, mix the vinegar, lime juice, and oil. With a sharp knife, cut the onion into fine julienne, and put it in the bowl. Then, cut the peppers in two parts, remove the veins and seeds and cut them finely, and add them to the mixture; Finally, cut the coriander and take it to the bowl. Sprinkle with salt, cayenne pepper, and ground black pepper to taste. Stir very well and let the flavors rest while serving the tamales.
- With scissors, cut the wicks of both ends of the tamales, remove the surface leaf and serve the tamales on the inner leaf, bathed with Creole sauce.